Special Feature: The Magic of P3s

Sept. 10, 2012
Public private partnerships are finding new ways to help municipalities with safety and security planning and goals

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of SD&I magazine

Many municipalities depend on public/private partnerships (often referred to as P3s) to fund video surveillance and other security projects. Private businesses have a stake in video surveillance and often share video feeds. However, methods to obtain public funding have changed. There are also new, emerging sources of funding. We asked a team of experts some key questions.

Q. How has the nature of public-private partnerships for funding of video surveillance or other projects changed in the last several years?

A. Oksana Farber, president, Trident Master Executive Development, Oakland Gardens, N.Y.: The disposition of developed and successful public-private partnerships (P3s) and their relationship to funding for video surveillance and/or other projects over the last several years has directly and indirectly improved and continues to be encouraging. Since one of the fundamental keys to keeping a P3 effective is cross-training public and private sector (PS) individuals, law enforcement (LE) leaders involved in a P3 program in Nassau County, N.Y., supplied training to small and mid-sized business owners to upgrade their security surveillance from archaic timelapsed VCR recorders to modern digital video surveillance systems after LE personnel explained how difficult it was to view re-used VCR tapes. As a result, several video surveillance vendors were invited to demonstrate modern systems and within a year, all of the P3 member business owners upgraded their security systems.

Mark Jules, executive director, National Public Safety Foundation, Baltimore, Md.: Private entities are seeing that, if they support their agencies, they are going to get an exponential return on that support. Because of the recession and cutbacks police departments have faced, both public and private agencies are seeing the benefits of working together and leveraging one another’s resources.

J.J. Murphy, CEO of Goals Consulting, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: There have been a couple of models tried under the public-private model in video surveillance. I think the way ahead will be that more communities try one of the successful models as funds are more competitive and these partnerships can increase the odds of communities obtaining grant funding. The security needs will not be decreasing, so communities must find a way to pool resources where necessary.

Alan F. Wohlstetter Esq., partner in the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia: Cities and police departments now understand that video surveillance is a key to leveraging officers on the street and turning them into effective rapid response units. As the September 2011 study by the Urban Institute demonstrates, active monitoring of video surveillance is cost-effective and facilitates convictions. Rather than paying for such networks with municipal bonds and tax revenues, infrastructure funds stand ready to invest in these arrangements, realizing that public safety infrastructure is an area which can benefit exponentially from the appropriate investment in technology.

Q. What are some new and emerging ways to get funding for video surveillance or other security, i.e., piggyback with electronic monitoring of meters, energy management, etc.?

Farber: A proportional investment forms both partners in a P3 program. In nearly all P3 programs, senior PS business leaders and LE leaders collectively decide during monthly or quarterly meetings what it takes to develop and grow their P3 program. Funding for the public sector equipment is sometimes supplied through homeland security coffers or as a result of the buy-in of senior LE leaders who fully understand and appreciate the inherent and long-term value of a P3 relationship within their own community, thereby approving funding and staffing resources to help expedite the P3. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. There still exist LE leaders who believe sharing information with the PS is a mistake. Fortunately, walls of silence and silo mentalities are fast becoming a thing of the past.. Funding from the PS is often executed by utilizing already available resources such as unused or large facilities that can accommodate P3 cross-training goals. The emerging ways to obtain funding involve creative and innovative thought processes. The typical ways of funding have fallen apart.

Jules: I’m not sure the basic principals have changed but the interest level has intensified. We’ve seen a lot more police foundations getting started and people taking an active role in those foundations. We are seeing more partnerships between industry and public safety groups. For example, I sit on the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Murphy: With more states approving the deployments of red-light cameras, it is natural to target some of the funding resources from the safety cameras into a deployment of surveillance cameras.

Wohlstetter: Some cities are setting up a non-profit corporation to relieve the city from the burden of funding and operating the video surveillance network. The non-profit corporation can contract with integrators, monitors and other private sector vendors clear of the maze of a city procurement process. Further, the non-profit can charge downtown associations, businesses and homeowners for monitoring their cameras, providing a higher level of public safety. And crucially, foundations and other charitable organizations can donate on a tax-preferred basis to the non-profit, ensuring that their philanthropy is having a direct effect on a city’s public safety. Providing a high level of public safety in high-priority areas enhances not only public safety, but also economic development.

Q. Where can integrators find out more about public-private partnerships or avenues to funding or approved projects?

Farber: Integrators are encouraged to become familiar with the activities and participation of corporate and LE members of merit-based P3 programs. ASIS International’s Law Enforcement Liaison Council (LELC) fosters, helps to develop, monitors the success of and advises on the continuity of P3 programs here in the USA and abroad. Our counterparts at the IACP, the Private Security Liaison Committee (PSLC) work with us on P3 surveys, shared education strategies and active support of P3s. FEMA’s Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS.gov) is a “national, online network of lessons learned, best practices, and innovative ideas for the emergency response and homeland security communities.” Many P3 programs are listed on this website.

Jules: For starters, contact us. Our website, www.nationalpublicsafetyfoundation.org, has a PowerPoint presentation which has initial information. Reach out to your local police foundation or national groups.

Murphy: I believe the integrators need to start partnering with the consultants who have deployed or created some of the successful public-private partnerships across the country. I know myself; I can find some avenues to increase funding on many different municipal deployments.

Q. With many municipalities experiencing budget cuts and even bankruptcy, how does this affect the need and desire for security and video surveillance projects?

Farber: Therein lies one of the reasons why P3s are crucial. Challenges such as aging infrastructure, financing gaps, budget constraints and the availability of private capital are forces that bring P3s to the foreground. The need for security and video surveillance projects are more critical now than ever before. Emerging threats that companies face, including mobile security, social media, and privacy are factors that drive security governance. Significant changes regarding threats to information security and heightened attention overall for employee theft, workplace violence and information security incidents require video surveillance.

Jules: One of the good things that came out of the financial crisis is it is forcing agencies to work together. The ones who are doing it well are seeing the rewards and will continue to do it more in the future.

Murphy: Current economic realities limit some of the Federal grants that were much easier to obtain in years past. Get creative. Don’t just chase the Department of Justice or Homeland Security grants. I have used gaming grants, Federal transit grants and the private partnerships to bring value into a communities system. Leveraging different resources can be a win for all sides as the private sector is looking to reduce costs as well.

Wohlstetter: With tax revenues declining and many competing priorities, cities struggle to put more police officers on the street, and incurring the salary, health care and pension liability that such new hires entail. Video surveillance makes the existing police officers more effective, both in the areas they can cover and the convictions they can deliver. Officer safety is also enhanced, since officers now know more about the situations they are responding to. Budget cuts also force a city to focus on those services which must be delivered by municipal workers (police, for example) and which services can be delivered more cost-effectively by the private sector. Video surveillance is not a core municipal function, but rather a proprietary function best delivered by the private sector.

Q. How and why should integrators get involved in the very beginning of projects? How does this affect their success rate in winning projects?

Farber: Integrators are better acquainted with the most current technological trends and should keep their clients informed of what is available to better address protection of their assets, personnel and customers at the beginning of each project. Membership in a P3 offers a great networking opportunity. Integrators’ clients’ specific security needs should be addressed completely and not be compromised under any circumstances within reason. If a security issue arises or when a criminal act has been perpetrated, the integrator’s expertise and help may be called upon when LE intervenes. This type of involvement can enhance an integrator’s public profile. The success rate in a winning project will be affected by an ethical business approach, superlative customer service and unencumbered dedication to the project from the very beginning. My own CSO experience with upgrading surveillance and access control at several warehouses started with a carte blanche budget from my CEO. Six integrators were interviewed. Four hadn’t the time nor desire to understand my various security challenges. One came in with numbers that could choke a horse and an unreasonable installation time. The integrator to whom the contract was awarded took the time to fully comprehend the pervasive, criminal subculture I needed to eliminate and respected my needs to collaborate with a professional team of skilled technicians and regularly communicate with them whenever an emergency became apparent.

Jules: We all play by certain procurement rules that dictate how early and how much you can be involved in the beginning. The key is to be asking questions about what they are trying to accomplish. Try to find the best solution for them – sometimes it is yours and sometimes it is not. Agencies talk to one another…even more with the development of these partnerships. The more you are open to working with others within the industry, and open to referring agencies on things that are not within your skill-set, the more people will come back to you for the things that are in your niche. Figure what they are trying to accomplish and offer them as many options as possible.

Murphy: I would not tell many integrators how or why they should get in the door early, which is their business. What I would tell them is that if they can bring added value to the table for the community, their security solution will be much more valuable. If you can turn a $500,000 project into a $1,200,000 project, then everyone walks away happier.

Wohlstetter: Integrators are realizing that for a city’s video surveillance network to be functional across departmental silos, there must be a full-service team to address legal, policy, engineering and financial issues. As a result, attorneys, public advocacy firms and other professionals are becoming part of full-service proposals from successful integrators

Q. What can we expect to see in the future?

Farber: From a legal perspective, future P3s will research and appropriately comply with whatever legislation and regulations exist. The PS has the know-how and ability to offer more technical, legal and financial expertise such as procurement capital, equity finance, debt finance, as well as how to efficiently manage successful completion of projects. All involved P3 leaders will be familiar with and fully knowledgeable of project specifics that relate to sources of finance, supply agreements, leased operators, retainers, tariffs, etc.

Jules: One word for the future: Collaboration. We are well beyond agencies being on separate islands. We have to get agencies in surrounding areas to talk to one another. It is shocking how often you have agencies next door to one another who don’t even know each other.

Murphy: I expect a big city to jump on the public-private partnership in municipal video surveillance in the near future. It will be the wave of the future in municipal security.

Wohlstetter: Among the legal issues to be addressed are: appropriate arrangements among city departments for use of footage; arrangements between businesses and household and the video surveillance network on sharing of footage; how long should footage be maintained; how will retained footage be accessed and protected; protocols and training for monitors; and appropriate signage to insulate the network from accidental liability.

Q. What else should we be thinking about?

Farber: I’d like to mention the Matthew Simeone Award for P3 Excellence (see sidebar).

Jules: The goal of the foundation is to strengthen local police foundations so they can continue to help their local agencies and to help start new foundations where they do not exist. A core focus will be making sure government agencies and private entities in the same area are introduced to one another. They can all add a lot of value to each other.

Murphy: Ask who are the partners that I should be targeting in my partnership?

Wohlstetter: As the Supreme Court wrote in the recent U.S. v. Jones decision, “Closed–circuit television video monitoring is becoming ubiquitous…The availability and use of these and other new devices will continue to shape the average person’s expectations about the privacy of his or her daily movements.” But while video surveillance in public areas is now established and perhaps expected, technology and an individual’s expectation of privacy seem to be on a collision course.